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New Left Review 97, January-February 2016


Adam Tooze

JUST ANOTHER PANIC?

One of the telling contradictions of neoliberalism was that an ideology committed to regularizing the governance of capitalism elevated an elite group of central bankers into the guarantors of world prosperity. In the midst of an aestheticized, picket-fence vision of the economic order stand the ‘maestros’ of monetary policy. [1] Ben Bernanke, The Courage to Act: A Memoir of a Crisis and its Aftermath, W. W. Norton: New York 2015, $35, hardback, 624 pp, 978 0 393 24721 3. Mario Draghi at the ecb plays the part to perfection. At the Bank of England, the arrival of square-jawed Mark Carney as successor to the more intemperate Mervyn King was greeted with rapture by the Financial Times. But the spiritual home and high temple of the new cult is the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, dc. Although it was Carter appointee Paul Volcker who mercilessly hiked interest rates in 1979 and withstood the lure of spendthrift Reaganomics to break inflation, the media sanctification really began with his successor. Reagan appointee Alan Greenspan rode out the crisis of 1987 and presided over the first tech boom in the 1990s. During the course of the Mexican (1994), Asian (1997) and Russian (1998) financial crises, Greenspan, along with Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the ex-ceo of Goldman Sachs, and their Harvard sidekick Lawrence Summers, headed what Time magazine breathlessly dubbed the ‘Committee to Save the World’. When the dot.com bubble burst in 2000, Greenspan dropped interest rates until Wall Street revived.

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